Smith's Favorite Story of 2021

Farmer Views: From Stripping to Drought to Beef Steaks to Rattlesnakes

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Farmers Kellie Blair of Dayton, Iowa, and Ryan Wieck, of Umbarger, Texas, shared their 2021 crop season as part of DTN's View From the Cab series. (DTN photos by Matthew Wilde and Greg Horstmeier)

Editor's Note:

2021 was a wild one, from a tumultuous change in the White House, to continued La Nina influences on the weather, to skyrocketing fertilizer and input costs. There were also a lot of good stories to tell. As the calendar year comes to a close we asked the DTN/Progressive Farmer writing team to pick their favorite effort from the year. The stories range from fun insights into ag entrepreneurs to serious investigations into the unintended consequences of popular production methods, to life lessons learned along the way to telling the tale. Each story also includes a link to the original story -- in case you missed that. Enjoy a look back, with our second story shared by Pamela Smith.


DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Ryan Wieck's friend recently got an alert warning that her teenager was watching illicit videos online. As it turned out, the child was enjoying YouTube videos of Wieck's cotton stripper working through his Texas Panhandle fields.

You must hear Wieck tell the story to get the full flavor of the tale. Among the DTN staff we've come to talk about the Texan's "Wiecked" sense of humor because every conversation with him is an adventure.

The story is a good example of one of the backstories from a feature called View From the Cab. In its 16th year, this series follows two farmers from different parts of the country through the growing season. And, when asked to pick my favorite story of the year, I can't really pick one because we did 27 segments of the feature and I loved working on each one.

Kellie Blair, the other part of the 2021 reporting duo, was just as entertaining. She wears a lot of hats -- Iowa farmer, farm wife, mother, agronomist, Sunday School teacher, direct beef marketer, conservationist and others -- and freely admits juggling all of them isn't always pretty. The honesty of compromise was always evident in our weekly discussions.

And that's what makes this series special -- it's real stuff about real people. Readers often complain that we need to print more of the human side of farming -- to tell of its thrills of victory and defeats. View From the Cab does that.

This year both farmers struggled with drought conditions. Blair's Iowa soils sucked up every bit of moisture and hung on to produce above average farm yields. Wieck found himself gasping until the end with 6.6 inches of total precipitation from Jan. 1 through mid-November. Woof.

Speaking of woof -- we cried when Wieck's dog, Boo, ran away. Cheered when both farmers got new pups. The farmers identified supply chain issues early in the season. Rising prices and concerns about availability of nitrogen for next year left Blair Farm with little choice but to fall-apply anhydrous for the first time.

Meanwhile, both farmers got more than a few chuckles and Google searches on the headline that they were simultaneously stripping in their respective regions in November. Blair filed one of her final reports while doing strip tillage -- tilling up narrow bands of soil to plant corn into next spring. Wieck was harvesting stripper cotton with the harvest machine they call a "stripper" rather than a picker. And a shocking thing it was, too -- the dry conditions were so bad that even the chains Wieck was dragging haven't been enough to keep the static electricity from messing with the machine's electronics.

"It's always something" became the motto of the season as these two young farmers took on 4-H shows and rattlesnakes. They discussed weed worries and how to use manure and technology and everything in between.

Find the final season wrap up of View From the Cab here:….

Learning more about stripping here:….

My favorite article of the season dealt with messy days when life gets chaotic:….

Interested in becoming a View From the Cab contributor? We're fielding applications. Send an email describing your farm and why you'd like to help others see agriculture through the eyes of a farmer.

Pamela Smith can be reached at

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

Pamela Smith

Pamela Smith
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